Now that the clocks have been turned back and we find ourselves on “Winter Time” the Saturday kick off time from now until the end of January is 2pm beginning with this Saturdays Tennent’s National League Division 1 clash at Mayfield against Cartha Queens Park.
Despite the torrential rain in the previous 48 hours (which saw the Titans/Morgan bounce game being called off at a waterlogged Glenrothes), the notoriously wet Bridgehaugh pitch was in remarkably good condition. All due to the tide being out, apparently – who knew that Stirling was tidal?
Dundee elected to play into the sun on a lovely still autumn afternoon. (Meanwhile, across on the 2nds pitch, Stirling’s Super 6 side were playing Watsonians in a pre season friendly – good to see our former players George Arnott and Murphy Walker featuring for them, and an injured Ali Mackie on water bottle duty!) Unfortunately, Dundee’s overcooked kick-off let Stirling onto the offensive immediately, and in an opening onslaught, they firstly butchered a 6 man overlap, then were held up over the line, before a penalty “kick pass” to the unmarked Stirling right wing let him stroll over to make it 5 – 0 Stirling after just 3 minutes.
Dundee were struggling to contain the bigger Stirling side, and after 10 minutes a simple pop pass on the 22 let the Stirling hooker canter over under the posts for a 12 – 0 scoreline.
Things looked worrying for Dundee, but suddenly they switched on and for the next 30 minutes gave their best display of the season so far. Their revival was ignited by a terrific try from full back Callum Nicol. Taking a Stirling kick on his own 22, he chipped ahead over the first line of defence, gathered, took a tackle and popped back up again to regather, and then finally shook off the cover defence to cross for a great score in the far corner. 12 – 5 to Stirling, game back on.
Danny McGinn, filling in at stand off for Paul Kerr, was starting to show up well, with a good break and kick ahead that was just snuffed out by a suddenly stretched Stirling defence. An unfortunate knock on from Hammy as the line beckoned gave them another reprieve. A powerful tackle by the Thorntons Man of the Match hooker Connor Crawford then stopped Stirling in their tracks, and a bullocking run by 2nd row Angus Thomson put Dundee right back on the front foot. And they duly cashed in as a midfield break by No. 8 Finlay Ormiston went through the hands to Callum Nicol, who once more went over in the far corner to put Dundee within 2 points of Stirling at 12 – 10 after 30 minutes. Unfortunately, that was Nicol’s last contribution, as he came off with a knock to be replaced by Ryan Doherty.
A Dundee penalty for a high tackle by Stirling after the restart kept them on the front foot. Centre Hoffie made a good break into Stirling territory, but a turnover by Stirling (one of a number) brought a promising move to an end. It was still Dundee on the attack, however, and from a retreating scrum Ormiston did well to get the ball away, Danny McGinn kept the ball alive, and Hammy broke and fed the supporting scrum half Finlay Jacobs to let him go over under the posts, Hammy’s conversion making it 17 – 12 to Dundee at half time.
Half time Reflections – Dundee had turned the game around, but would Stirling’s big ball carrying forwards start to wear a spirited Dundee defence down in the second half?
Dundee started the 2nd half with Andy Elton on for Tim Brown at flanker. Stirling began more strongly, and Dundee were forced more and more onto the defensive, but a number of Stirling penalties kept easing the pressure. The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half were scoreless, but gradually Stirling were getting on top. Angus Thomson was now replaced by Craig Shearer as Dundee started to tire. A Stirling attack was held up over the Dundee line, but their try was only delayed by a couple of minutes. On the hour mark a Stirling 5 metre lineout led to rugby’s problem child, a rolling maul, which duly let the big Stirling pack grind over and take the lead back by 2 points, 19 – 17. Hammy came off, and Taylor Smith came on at flanker, with Sean Gauld moving to midfield.
Another great Connor Crawford tackle slowed a Stirling attack, but their experienced No. 15 fielded Dundee’s clearing kick, stepped the uprushing Dundee defence, and linked well with his centre to let Stirling in for another try. 24 – 17 after 67 minutes, and the writing was now on the wall for Dundee. The bench was emptied as their last replacement Paul Slade came on, but two more Stirling tries followed as Dundee ran out of steam, to make the final scoreline a slightly flattering 38 – 17 for Stirling.
Full time reflections This young Dundee team showed good spirit and played some great rugby at times, sticking manfully to their task as a quality and bigger Stirling side asked many questions of them. The lineout was good, the scrum won its own ball, they never stopped competing at the breakdowns, although turning over too much ball, and the backs looked incisive at times with ball in hand. Hopefully, their first win is just round the corner.
Dundee team – 15 Callum Nicol 14 Stuart Kirk 13 Callum Hoffie 12 Andrew Hamilton 11 Gavin Ross 10 Danny McGinn 9 Finlay Jacobs 1 Jack Newth 2 Connor Crawford 3 James Shellard 4 Angus Thomson 5 Iain Lockhart 6 Sean Gauld 7 Tim Brown 8 Finlay Ormiston
Replacements – 16 Andy Elton 17 Taylor Smith 18 Craig Shearer 19 Paul Slade 20 Ryan Doherty
15 – Callum Nicol
14 – Stuart Kirk
13 – Callum Hoffie
12 – Andrew Hamilton
11 – Gavin Ross
10 – Danny McGinn
9 – Finlay Jacobs
1 – Jack Newth
2 – Connor Crawford
3 – James Shellard
4 – Angus Thomson
5 – Iain Lockart
6 – Sean Gauld
7 – Tim Brown
8 – Finlay Ormiston
16 – Andy Elton
17 – Paul Slade
18 – Craig Shearer
19 – Sam Cardosi
20 – Ryan Doherty
It was a game, that on paper, promised little for the home side, and your scribe had much trepidation in his heart pre KO, but that was not how events unfolded A cobbled together team [20 call offs midweek] gave the coaching team and spectators a thrilling, if pointless, afternoon.
What a wonderful Autumn day: sunshine, full lunch club, fumes from the previous night’s gin tasting percolating and a host of ex-players festooning the side lines.
To the fore, and up from Melrose, ex-flanker, Jimmy Hutchison, brother in law of JJ Van Der Esch, so no humour there: also present Bruce McClaren and David Ogilvie. On the downside we also had the dubious honour of hosting David (Bawheed) Reid and Brucy Welch.
Dundee’s gegenpress and strong game plan meant this game was always competitive and hugely watchable – so to the game.
Dundee kicked off with the wind from the West, and the game was contested in midfield for the first 5 minutes. Then Melrose forced 3 scrums with the third one giving front foot ball to the visitors and they moved it wide for wing Mallin to score + conversion: 0-7 after 9 mins. Dundee came roaring back with scrum half Jacobs and full back Nicol to the fore; a penalty won and kicked: 3-7.
Melrose then increased the forward pressure and started throwing the resultant quick ball, about. Two great defensive hits by centre Callum Hoffie could not prevent a penalty, duly converted by the Borderers to take it to 3-10.
On the next play Dundee’s tenacity saw Paul Kerr released to race towards the oppos line, only to be halted 15 yards short by an illegal tackle from opposite number Crawford, earning him the first of a litany of yellows given out throughout the afternoon. Kerr had to leave the arena after much, on-pitch work by the medics; replaced by Chris Paton.
Then when Dundee looked for inroads off the resultant penalty, a wayward pass and interception saw the impressive away scrum half, Crawford run 90yards
to score. Conversion took us to 3-14.
Dundee were competing strongly at the breakdown and their pressure saw the ball in number 8 Sean Gauld’s hands and from there over the line: touchdown 8-14. [Gauld went on to get Dundee’s man of the match award]
The ever-eager Dundee 9 Jacobs broke from the next play and some over zealous Melrose defence saw number 4 Brown sent to the Bin.
The score stayed the same till half time but that was not the full story.
Melrose suffered an injury to number 2 and had their 3 yellow-carded. Davy Mason [at 49 and Dundee’s youth policy] put in several try saving tackles [his words not mine]. And Dundee kicked for position! A ploy new to them.
Half time: 8-14.
The second half did not, in fairness, live up to the first, but the endeavour was there for all to see.
Dundee started well with young Gauld to the fore resulting in a penalty under the away posts: eschewed? The resultant tap and go saw a knock on: chance wasted.
Scrums were briefly uncontested but when parity was resumed Melrose used scrum possession to control ball and attack and score from their 22: 8-19.
The game then entered a doldrumic period with the highlight being a great break from that man Gauld, ultimately unsuccessful; but appreciated by Melrose number 14: great to see.
Melrose suffered 4 yellows in this match, Dundee 2, and it could have been more with Melrose committing further high tackles and a neck roll. But in no way was this a dirty game- just one at high pace with errors inevitable.
Then something happened which blew my mind: 2nd row Shearer scored for Dundee. Shearer AKA Strettle, a winger from yesteryear. It’s a funny old game: 15-19.
Two late unconverted tries saw Melrose home and hosed 15-29.
This was a great afternoon’s entertainment, enjoyed by all, with some pleasing performances from home players. No one should doubt the commitment of this young team – D Mason aside – and with more control: who knows?
Footnote: ex-player and all round good guy Kevin McLeod attended the game as he was in Dundee following his beloved father’s recent demise. I know he found the afternoon a great distraction and I speak for us all offering our condolences and best wishes at this difficult time.
|£100||J D Knight|
|£50||I C Reoch|
|£30||S B Williams|
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Not a bad day to play at Hartree Mill as the rain stayed off and the wind not really effecting the game that much.
A Yorkshire referee in the middle one of 3 in Scotland this weekend on an exchange deal between the 2 Unions. Good idea and great for the development of referees. However the ref pulled up injured at about 17 mins into the 2nd half and the coaches agreed they would allow the ref to limp on for another 3 mins so the result would stand.
Then for some strange reason there was confusion trying to get a colts ref to turn around his car and come back to Biggar.
About 20 mins later no ref and players losing focus and interest another huddle involving ref assessor and SRU ref chief Tappie Henning with coaches who 20 mins previously had agreed the way to proceed, and the game was abandoned and the result will stand.
So, a good question. What are the rules around the unusual event of a ref not able to continue? If this had happened in the preceding years then an assistant ref would take over. In this year however the SRU have taken the decision to withdraw the ar’s thus devaluing the NAT 1 tournament.
Result was never in doubt, so it was a pity the Thorntons Man of the Match Donald Sangster was injured for his efforts. Good to see now SRU employee and ex Dundee stalwart Robbie Rooster Lavery again playing for Biggar. Good lad Robbie. Some good performances though a quiet bus home.